Honey bees under threat from highly-contagious disease outbreak

Norfolk beekeepers have reported an outbreak of two highly-contagious diseases for honey bees in the Fakenham and Wells area which are both capable of wiping out entire colonies.

The new cases of European foul brood (EFB) and American foul brood (AFB) infections pose a major threat to honey bees.

The activities of the honey bee are vital to many plants and crops which rely on the insects for pollination.

In a joint statement issued by Trevor Nash, chairman of the Norfolk Beekeepers’ Association (NBKA), and Venetia Rist, chairman of the West Norfolk and King’s Lynn Beekeepers’ Association (WNKLBA), it said the area around Fakenham and Wells has become a “hot spot” for the diseases, which are caused by bacterial infections affecting the larvae of the honey bees.

The statement said:

The result of both these diseases is likely to kill the whole infected colony.

“They are both notifiable diseases so if a beekeeper identifies it in any of their colonies it must be reported immediately to the Department for Environment Farming and Rural Affairs [Defra].

“It is important to do this, rather like the current regulations we have for Covid-19, as we need to be able to track and trace infected colonies.

These diseases are highly contagious and can easily spread from one colony to another by bees visiting other hives and bringing the infection back to their own.

“It appears that we have a ‘hot spot’ of this disease in the Fakenham and Wells area and surrounding areas. Currently our bee inspectors are trying hard to identify the source of the infections to bring it under control.”

Beekeepers and members of the public have been urged to report possible cases in order to help control the spread of these diseases.